Protest Songs Through History: A Reading, Writing, and Listening Project

Protest Songs through History: A Reading, Writing, and Listening Project

If music is the pulse of a generation, then the times our have been racing are captured in protest songs. We can learn so much not only about the events that inspired these emotional, passionate displays but also about how music offers a platform for people who feel otherwise unheard.

This class uses Dorian Lynskey’s book 33 Revolutions per Minute to explore 12  protest songs ranging from 1939-2008. Learners will explore pieces like Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” Carl Bean’s “I Was Born This Way,” Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” and Green Day’s “American Idiot.”

After we’ve read 12 chapters from the book, we’ll turn to modern-day protest songs and what topics have been most common among them from 2008-present.

The final project invites learners to write their own chapter on one of the newer songs, using what they’ve learned about how to contextualize history to make their own contribution to the discussion on the impact of protest songs.

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Class Duration: September 28-December 20

Class Size: 3-8 learners

Age Range: 14+

Total Price: $260

If music is the pulse of a generation, then the times our have been racing are captured in protest songs. We can learn so much not only about the events that inspired these emotional, passionate displays but also about how music offers a platform for people who feel otherwise unheard.

This class uses Dorian Lynskey’s book 33 Revolutions per Minute to explore 12  protest songs ranging from 1939-2008. Learners will explore pieces like Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” Carl Bean’s “I Was Born This Way,” Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” and Green Day’s “American Idiot.”

After we’ve read 12 chapters from the book, we’ll turn to modern-day protest songs and what topics have been most common among them from 2008-present.

This is a very feedback-heavy and interactive class. Learners will complete assignments throughout the course, helping them build up to the final project. They will receive individual feedback on rough and final drafts, with guidance on how to revise to achieve their individual goals.

Learners will also complete a collaborative rubric to help determine exactly what they would like to get out of the course. They will use this rubric to guide their decisions about which projects to complete and where to focus their attention.

The final project invites learners to write their own chapter on one of the newer songs, using what they’ve learned about how to contextualize history to make their own contribution to the discussion on the impact of protest songs.

For the final class, they’ll be invited to present their work and share their progress.

We will meet live as a group on the following Tuesdays from 11am-12pm Central: September 29, October 20, November 17, and December 15. There will also be some opportunities to meet individually with the instructor as needed.

Texts: A copy of Dorian Lynskey’s book 33 Revolutions per Minute (ISBN 9780061670152)

To interact in class: Live sessions will be best experienced with a camera and microphone. Students will need a Zoom account (free), a Google Drive account (free), and a Discord account (free).

For assignments: Written work can be submitted through Microsoft Word or through Google Docs. If learners choose to create a multimodal final presentation, they can use whatever tools they’d like (for example PowerPoint, video editing software, etc.)

Usually 3-5 hours per week of work; length may vary based on reading/writing speed

Some writing skills (ability to craft 4-5 paragraphs on a single topic)

Some reading skills (ability to decode unfamiliar words through context, ability to make connections between ideas over multiple chapters, ability to take meaningful notes on a reading)

Close textual analysis

Synthesis of themes across genres, mediums, and historical eras

Practice taking perspectives different from one’s own

Note taking and using outside sources to craft papers

Revising writing over multiple drafts

The individual support is really the cornerstone of this class. While the core final project is the same for every learner (take what we learn from the past to look at a protest song in the modern era), what that looks like will be different for each person. The instructor will work closely with students to create their own goals and to give feedback and guidance that helps reach those individual goals. In this way, learners at different skill levels can all find challenge and success in the class.

Families and learners are welcome to share any information about their individual learning preferences and needs and instructor will make accommodations that are helpful to the class.

The protest songs we look at deal with difficult topics from history. Some of the topics include protests against lynching, racism, discrimination against LGBTQ people, war, limited birth control access, and denial of women’s equality.

Some of the songs contain profanity. There are descriptions (though not typically graphic ones) of violence and brutality within the text of the book itself.

In short, there are a lot of sensitive topics in this course, and since they are being shared through the songs of the people protesting them, the emotional response is often a key part of their rhetorical message.

The instructor may also point individual learners to supplemental resources or guide them through independent research to find other sources depending on their topics and interests.

See this teacher’s policies on things like refunds, missing class, and behavioral expectations. (Click here to see the policies.)

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